Louisiana has Double the AIDS Death Rate of National Average

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Nowhere else in the United States is AIDS a more serious problem than Louisiana, according to a leading human rights group.


The state’s death rate from AIDS is more than double the national average, Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported.


This predicament is the result of ill-advised laws and law enforcement decisions that have denied access to sterile syringes and discouraged use of condoms.


“The HIV epidemic in New Orleans is one of the worst in the US, and proven strategies for addressing it are being ignored,” Megan McLemore, HRW’s senior health researcher and the report’s author, said in a prepared statement. “People who use drugs can’t get clean needles, and police are confiscating condoms from sex workers and those suspected of sex work, such as transgender women.”


The report (In Harm’s Way: State Response to Sex Workers, Drug Users, and HIV in New Orleans [pdf]) urges officials to alter laws and policies that “stigmatize, discriminate against, and facilitate police abuse of sex workers and drug users, and interfere with health services for people at high risk for HIV.”


Baton Rouge and New Orleans, the state’s two largest cities, have the country’s second and third-highest rates of new HIV infection.


Twenty-five percent of the state’s 45,000 individuals who inject drugs reside in New Orleans, and 40% of the city’s residents with HIV are not receiving treatment.


Deon Haywood, executive director at the New Orleans-based nonprofit Women With A Vision, told Human Rights Watch that New Orleans and the state need to lead “the charge against HIV by funding programs that have been proven to prevent HIV.”


Instead, advocates have had to step in and do the job of the New Orleans Health Department, Haywood added.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

US: Louisiana Fuels HIV Epidemic (Human Rights Watch)

In Harm’s Way: State Response to Sex Workers, Drug Users, and HIV in New Orleans (Human Rights Watch) (pdf)

Southern States Criticized for Hurting Fight against AIDS (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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